Lifestyle Guides

Connecting with nature from your doorstep

In these unprecedented times we all recognise the vital importance of social distancing, cutting back on our interactions with others to reduce virus transmission and protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

bird in garden

The UK's in lockdown, but this doesn’t mean you have to stay holed up indoors. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recognised the importance of fresh air and fitness, stating it’s okay for us to get outside once a day for a walk, run or cycle. 

And there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the nurturing benefits of nature in the great outdoors - take a look!

Natural beauty

There are more than 2,300 nature reserves looked after by The Wildlife Trusts, including ancient woodlands and urban parks, and, according to the organisation, most people in the UK live within a few miles of one. 

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, visitor centres are closed, but many nature reserves away from high footfall areas remain open, giving you the chance to unwind and commune with nature but only if you are near enough to walk to one for your once a day exercise.

Government guidance says you can only visit somewhere by foot and must not drive to get to a place of exercise. And don’t forget the two-metre distance rule.

So if you’re keen to see colourful wildflowers spring up near you or hanker after watching wild hares indulge in a bout of boxing, the Trust can point you in the right direction. 

Similarly, if you want to go down to the woods today to spot the early signs of spring, the Woodland Trust can help you find the woods closest to your garden gate. If you’re self-isolating and can’t leave home, the organisation also has ideas to connect with nature in your garden.

Rambling on

Continuing the walking theme, it’s time to think outside the box - or, rather, think outside of your local park, which may be closed for the time being. 

If you’re fortunate enough to live in the countryside, our guide to hiking with kids can get your family exploring safely while the schools are closed and, if you turn it into a nature trail, you’ll be ticking the home schooling box at the same time!

Registering with Ramblers allows you to download for free a selection of routes close to your home, while joining as a member enables you to access the full library of 3,000 trails.

There are also plenty of walking options for those living in towns and cities with urban route planner walkit.com, which finds linear and circular walks near you. With the current need to avoid public transport, it’s time to discover a whole new world right under your nose!

Watch the birds

While the RSPB has closed its nature reserves, located in the country’s marshes, healthland, estuaries and shorelines, they're keen as ever to help us birdwatch from our windows! 

Research from the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland shows that spotting feathered friends close to your home can boost mental health and wellbeing, and that people living near birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress

The RSPB has lots of handy tips on attracting birds to your garden, such as putting up feeders, nest boxes and bird baths and even creating a bird cafe. Many are suitable for balconies and roof terraces too, so, no matter how small your outside space, settle down for some tranquil twitching!

Blooming marvellous

Getting fresh air in the garden, if you’re lucky enough to have one, can really lift the spirits. Spring is a super time to get the kids growing vegetables in pots, including green beans, peas, spinach and rocket. Or sow some sunflowers, which sprout quickly and avoid a boring wait! If you’re short on outdoor space, many smaller plants can easily be grown on balconies and even window sills.

Your garden can be a great venue for a children’s treasure hunt too. You don’t have to create anything fancy, just hide clothes pegs in flower beds or bushes, on fences or in patio pots for them to find as they follow clues or a treasure map. Don’t forget to ‘plant’ a prize at the end, such as gold chocolate coins or a new reading book!

Our guide to environmentally friendly garden trends can give you inspiration on how to make the most of your precious outdoor space, so you can enjoy every minute of the enforced time at home.

Home is where the art is

If you’re nurturing a budding Da Vinci or Emin at home, take the art lessons outdoors. Children love finding creative inspiration in nature, whether it’s building models with twigs and stones found in your garden, or making leaf prints. 

Give them a free rein to decorate paths and patios with washable paint - at least it will save cleaning up the mess indoors! Or take inspiration from the heartwarming posts on social media and allow your family to paint happy scenes on your front windows to cheer up passers-by - in these challenging times, every home needs a rainbow!

Let’s get digital

Screens and apps will, of course, be part of home-based life for the foreseeable future, and some lovely nature-themed options are available to bring the outdoors in. Get to know garden birdsong with Chirp!, which identifies the calls of dozens of British and European species, or download Picture This: Plant Life to help identify plants.

Toca Nature allows children to create beautiful ecosystems and learn about animal survival, while Namoo explains the life of plants and how leaves make food, via interactive 3D simulations. 

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